Everyone knows the importance of stretching after a workout, but getting a good night’s sleep is another integral component of an athlete’s daily regimen that is often overlooked. Lack of sleep has been linked to an increase in sickness and injury risk, and a decrease in reaction time and game-time performance.
Below are our top recommendations to help young athletes improve their quality of sleep:
1. Establish a regular sleep schedule
Keeping consistent sleep and wake times – even on the weekends – have a tremendous impact on sleep quality over the long haul.
2. Put down the phone (and everything else electronic)
The blue light emitted from electronics has been shown to inhibit quality sleep. Try “old-school” methods for relaxing prior to bed each night, such as reading a book or listening to calming music before bed. Bonus points for adding a glass of warm milk.
3. Power napping
Take a 10-30 minute power nap or pre-game nap. Short power naps (10-30 minutes) can be beneficial and increase alertness and performance for several hours. Aim to take a power nap during the late morning or afternoon. Power naps can be strategically utilized before an afternoon practice or an evening game. Just be careful, as longer naps can result in sleep inertia (feeling sluggish and groggy). Most importantly, naps should not replace getting an adequate night’s rest.
4. Create a comfortable sleep environment
Make sure the room is dark, cool and quiet. Consider some type of white noise such as a fan, as well as black-out curtains.
5. Curb late-night snacking
Your athlete should aim to have their last meal a few hours before bed. If they are hungry later than that window, a light, lean snack could aid in their ability to fall asleep. You’ll just want to avoid anything sugary or high in fat.
By incorporating these sleep tips into their nutrition and conditioning routine, young athletes can make great strides into staying healthy and operating at peak physical performance.